Thursday, August 24, 2017

Empty the Pews and Save the Church

I've been struggling a lot lately, wrestling with the future of the church.  How do we respond as Christians to a world that has been hurt by the church, without becoming defensive and without doing more damage than has already been done?  How do we get out into the world and meet people where they are?  How do we love our neighbors?  How do we show grace without ulterior motives and instead REALLY listen to what people are trying to say to us?

If you keep up with Twitter (I don't, but fortunately I have friends who tell me when something important happens), you may have noticed that one of the trending hashtags over the last week is #emptythepews.  You can see some of the tweets here:

Where did this hashtag come from?  You can read the article from Patheos here:

The article explains:

Christopher Stroop‏, a former evangelical, thinks there’s only one thing that will convince these leaders to stop backing Trump: Their church members have to walk away. The loss of tithe money and the awful optics of a shrinking congregation is the only way they’ll ever change. To that end, he began the hashtag #EmptyThePews a couple of days ago to collect stories from evangelicals (and other ex-Christians) who walked away from their churches, explaining what the final straw was.

Although, I personally find this article deeply frustrating (for a number of reasons), it is important, I think, for us to pay attention to what is being said with this hashtag.  Here are some examples of why people are leaving and continue to leave:

"I walked out when pastor said women in trousers + intelligence were from the devil"

"When the pastor's daughter told me I wasn't one of the chose ones.  I was 15"

"The pastor preached: Divorce never makes anything better.  I'm sitting next to a battered woman who's just separated"

The stories go on and on.  Some of the stories are greatly disturbing.  Some are angry.  Some are frustrated. Some are hurt.  Some, you may think are not worth leaving over, some would make most of us run for the hills...

Now before you get mad at me, I have a lot of very dear friends who voted for and support Trump.  I have a lot of church members who voted for and support Trump. These are people I talk to and have face to face conversations with every single day.  We don't hide behind computer screens and put one another down, but we talk to each other.  We listen to one another.  We have community together.  I know that these are good people.  These are people who visit the shut-ins, who reach out to their neighbors, who help one another.  These are good people.  

That said, there is a bad taste in the mouths of a lot of people in the way that evangelical Christianity seems to be so closely tied to conservative politics.  The problem is that it's not reflective of the love that exists within the church.  It's not reflective of the grace I've seen people show to one another.  It's not reflective of the covered dish dinners and casseroles and the way we reach out when someone in the community is hurting. 

MY CHURCH, even though we don't all have the same politics is a family. It is a group of people who love and care for one another.  It's a group that notices when someone is missing.  We are a group that needs work.  We are a group that needs to improve.  We are a group who has probably hurt some people over the years.  I would say this is probably true of ALL churches.  The moment we think we're doing it right or that we have all the answers is the moment we block out the voice of truth, and we stop listening to where the Spirit is moving us. 

I'll tell you what really struck me in reading these #emptythepews tweets is that MOST of the problems, most of the hurt didn't come from church members, but it came from the PASTOR not being an effective leader. It came from the pastor being a voice of hatred and intolerance from the pulpit.  It came from things other than love and the gospel of Jesus being proclaimed from the pulpit. It came from pastors sharing their own agenda, their own politics, rather than equipping people for ministry.  Rather than sharing how Jesus loved on the fringes.  Rather than sharing how Jesus sat with the poor, the oppressed, the prostitutes, the beggars, the tax collectors.  Instead they shared words of judgment.

I'll admit it's a temptation that is real for many of us as pastors.  We stand in a place of privilege where we are given the ability to share every week.  There are often times things I want to say from the pulpit, and I have to spend a lot of time in prayer to remind myself that this calling is not FOR me and it's not ABOUT me.  It is not my place to just share what I think.  Rather, it  is a place to teach, and to equip, and to minister.  That doesn't mean that we don't speak the truth in love.  It doesn't mean that we don't offer accountability.  But the pulpit shouldn't be used as a place of oppression.
My first thought when I saw #emptythepews was to get defensive.  We don't need anything else pulling people away from the church.  We are already declining, we are already suffering and we are already hurting.  What the world sees of us is too much hatred, and judgment, and it's not reflective of who Jesus is, and it's not reflective of what the church is called to be.

I've been in church my entire life.  I KNOW church people.  I know that our politics are different from what we put into action.  I know people who believe that the government shouldn't offer assistance programs to people who need them, but would turn around and give their last dollar and the clothes on their back to help someone who needs it.  Just because their politics say something, doesn't mean their actions do, and THAT's the truth of the church that so many people don't see.  It's complicated and it's messy, but loving people is complicated anyway.

If I didn't LOVE these people, I wouldn't be here.  If I didn't believe this with my whole heart, I would have left the church too.  But I have a different idea for #emptythepews. Maybe instead of showing why we are leaving the church forever, maybe we should #emptythepews to extend our love and ministry into the world.  Maybe we should be going out and meeting people where they are.    Maybe we should be leaving the church building and feeding those who have nothing to eat.I promise you, many of these people are doing it already.  We just don't see it.  

Church, this is our time to make a movement.  This is our time to show that the church is love.  And PASTORS, use your pulpits to say what Jesus has called you to say.  It is not your personal political platform.  Read these testimonies from Twitter. Even if they offend you.  Listen to the voices of people who have been hurt by the church and let's work to make it better.  Let's work to reach those who are leaving.  Let's work to care for those who are missing from our pews, even if we disagree with them.  And maybe, just maybe, emptying the pews could save the church.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Famous Last Words

My absolute favorite piece of scripture is the Great Commission from Matthew 28:16-20

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I don't know what really started my love for this passage, but I think it may have begun during a class I had with Laceye Warner at Duke.  We talked about this passage a lot, and what it means to be disciples in our current time.  This passage is the very last thing we hear in the Gospel of Matthew.  It is the final, parting words of Jesus that we are given, according to Matthew's account at least.

Why are these words so important?  These words are not just a simple request from Jesus, but they are perhaps some of the most important words he ever uttered.  "Go and make disciples of ALL nations." But do we take this seriously?  Do we really take this command to heart?

These are some of Jesus' famous last words.

Those of you who know me know that I really love John Wesley.  Wesleyan history is one of my favorite topics of conversation and it's where my nerd flag really flies high (almost as much as my love for Star Wars).  But as John Wesley died, he held the hands of all the people around them, told them how much he loved them, and as he took his final breath he said, "The best of all is, God is with us."   Every time I hear those words I get chills.  I only hope that I could be so profound, so prophetic, at any point in my life, let alone in my dying moments.

Famous.  Last. Words.

What message is so important to you that you would want it to be the words you left your family and friends with?  I think for me, I would want it to be something like, "Love one another".  Or maybe "If you want to be a disciple, you have to remember that it's not about you."

It's NOT about you.  It's not about me. It's not about any of us.  The best news is that God is with us.  The GOOD news is that Christ came to show us how to make disciples so that the world could see that God is with us.  I think this is a hard message in our consumerist society. 

 It's a hard message for those of us who are believers to realize that none of this is about us.  Yet we make it all about us.  What can the church do for me? What ministries can you offer for me?  How can you appeal to me and the needs of MY family?  And if the small church that has been begging for young families can't offer those things, we leave and go somewhere else that can.  And that's not to shame or say that those are inherently bad things to want, but do we want it to truly build up our faith?  Or is it a social need?  What if we stayed in those small churches and built ministries where we land and were a part of the community?

This past week we had our North Carolina Conference United Methodist Church Annual Conference in Greenville, NC.  And for the first time in my 32 years (preacher's kid, youth delegate, then preacher myself) of going to conferences I didn't leave feeling absolutely frustrated.  And that's a good thing.  We talked about climate change.  We talked about issues that matter. We lifted a resolution from our youth to tackle the poor road conditions in Johnston county.  We were taking social action on issues that MATTER, and it was a glorious thing to see.  (I feel like the youth are really a beacon that we should be looking to in the church for direction, but I digress...)

We talked about what mattered...

I mean sure, when you put several thousand church people in a room together, we're going to get side tracked, but we truly talked about issues that matter. One of my biggest sorrows about the church today is that we spend so much time getting caught up in minutiae that only tears us apart, and it kills me.  It makes me weary... and I know that I'm not alone.  Every time it happens I find myself going back to this Great Commission text:

  Is what we're doing helping to make disciples of ALL the nations?  Does what we're doing right now show that God is with us?

There's a lot of talk about split and division in the United Methodist Church, and I'll be honest it terrifies me.  I don't know where we'll end up.  I don't know what will happen.  I don't honestly know what the best decision is for the church.  We have this commission on A Way Forward (and as the bishop pointed out this week it's A way forward not necessarily THE way forward, because we know we are human and we know that there are many different options for how this can go) that is set to talk about where the church needs to go in the next few years.

I don't know what the answer is, but I do believe in resurrection.  I believe in renewal. I don't believe that the church has to die.  But I do believe that the church has to die to what it is.  We've done a lot of damage to our society by forgetting what our Great Commission is.  We've done a lot of damage by forgetting this call to create disciples.  It is not a call to show everyone that we're right.  It is not a call to affirm our politics.  It is not a call to divide.  It is not a call to cast aside some people as worthy while we pick and choose who we think God came for.  It is not a call to build walls and destroy communities.  It IS a call to love our neighbor, to love them so much that they see that God is with us.  It IS a call to bear evidence of God's love in this world.  It is a call to teach others who God IS, and not what we've made God to be in our own image.

It's not about us...

I wonder what the famous last words of the church would be.  It scares me to think what some of us might say.  If the church were to end RIGHT now, what would our last impression be on the world around us.  Would it be that we don't like LGBTQ people?  Would it be that we don't want our black neighbors showing up at church on Sunday?  Would it be that we don't want people asking for help because it scares us?  If it's anything other than LOVE, we're doing it wrong.

We need to decide what impression we would want to leave.  We need to decide what parting words we would want to share and we need to start living into it right now. 

I don't want to the church to die.  I don't want it to split.  Because in my heart, I know that the best news of all is that God is with us, and there's not a single person on this earth I don't want to share that with.  

Blessings <><
Pastor Laura

Monday, June 12, 2017

Pint Sized Pentecost

Last week we celebrated Pentecost in the life of the church, the day in which the Holy Spirit descends upon the people gathered.  People were speaking in their native languages but they could all understand one another.  It was like "tongues of fire" and even though it was only 9am in the morning people thought, "They must be drunk!  What's going on here is just TOO crazy to have any other explanation!!"

That, at least, is the super abridged, sweeping analysis of what happened that Pentecost day.  Today at Saint Paul we're continuing our new ministry "Pray and Play Cafe", a chance for kids to gather with their parents and have a time of prayer and play while learning a Bible lesson.  We had a huge crowd this morning:

Of course, all three of them belong to me, but eventually we'll have some other friends to join us ;) (at least that's my hope... otherwise we might have to re-invent ourselves and take this show on the road)

This morning we talked about Pentecost, about how the Spirit works within us to equip all of us for ministry, and how God's Kingdom is filled with people from all different backgrounds, and that even though we don't all look the same or speak the same way, we still are children of God.

Cameron is in the Spanish Immersion program at Martin Millennium Academy (now in FIRST GRADE, HOLY COW!!!) and he said that Pentecost is sort of like how he can understand his teachers when they speak Spanish at school, but he can also understand us when we speak English at home.  A pretty good analogy for a 5 year old, I think.  See, even though Spanish isn't his native language, when he listens carefully and he pays attention he can understand what is being said at school.  At Pentecost, the reason they could understand one another was because of the gift of the Holy Spirit, but in our every day interactions, sometimes all it takes is some intentionality to listen to one another and strive to understand.

Sometimes we break down barriers where there are divisions in language, race, culture, background, nationality, and we build walls instead of seeking to listen and understand one another.  Pentecost is a reminder that we are called to be united by the Spirit, united by Christ, united in our love of God and neighbor.  Sure, maybe people will think we're crazy.  Maybe they'll think we're drunk (see Acts 2).  Maybe they'll think it's a lost cause, but can it really hurt to try?

My (almost 6 year old) son understands this.  He gets it.  We should strive to love our neighbor, regardless of our differences.  What can you do to show your love of neighbor today?

~As a side story: a few weeks ago we were at Highway 55 in Tarboro and a complete stranger paid for our meal.  My kids had been yelling and acting crazy and I'm used to someone in those situations making comments about how I have my hands full or offering unwanted advice about how to calm everyone down.  However, this kind person didn't do that... he just paid for our meal (probably because he noticed our insanity) and said that because he had been blessed, he wanted us to feel blessed too.

I'm sure there were plenty of other people in that restaurant who needed it more than we did, but it sure meant a lot for someone to share that act of kindness with us.  This person probably had different political beliefs than us, probably didn't share our history, we might not even have the same religious beliefs, but none of that came up and it didn't matter.  What mattered in that moment was love of neighbor, and while it may seem small, to us it was huge, and it's exactly the way we should be loving one another in this world.  ~

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Lord is my (German) Shepherd

For as long as I can remember I've wanted a German Shepherd. I've spent so much time scouring websites and rescue groups and shelters looking for a German Shepherd in need of a good home.  Nathan would always roll his eyes at me as I'd send him pictures of dogs that would pop up.  I'd say, "What do you think of this one?" and he'd say, "It looks like a dog".  (He thinks he's funny)

I love dogs, I'm a dog person through and through, but I have never had exactly the dog I was looking for, until this sweet girl came into my life.

This is Princess Zelda, who come to us by crazy happenstance this week.  As always I was looking at websites and sending Nathan pictures of random dogs, but I fell upon a breeder in Bath, NC who had nothing less than 5 star reviews.  So I sent her a message just inquiring about what a puppy would cost.  I didn't really want a puppy, but thought I would get some more information anyway.  It turned out that she had a beautiful two year old, totally trained in German commands that she was wanting to find a home for. She had planned to breed her but was unable to and preferred that she be able to live with a family who could give her lots of attention.  We have three little boys and this girl has been playing fetch or "Brring" non-stop for the past two days.

How often do you stumble upon a dog that is totally trained, good with kids, friendly, socialized and patient?  It's as if all those times Nathan rolled his eyes at me (wink wink Nathan) kept me from missing this opportunity.  

It's funny watching her with the boys.  She LOVES them.  She'll kiss them, cuddle them, play fetch with them.  She gets really upset when Allen walks out of the room. She thinks we should all be sitting in the same room and nobody is allowed to leave.  So she'll sort of walk circles around him to lure him back into the living room.  It's hilarious.  He just laughs at her and she gets so excited once her "job" is complete.

She's only been with us for two days but she's always alert, always watching out for her family, standing guard.  I keep thinking of the 23rd Psalm, "The Lord is my shepherd..." Shepherds look out for their flock.  They don't let anyone go astray.  A German Shepherd, lives up to its name.  She causes us to pause to rest, she restores my soul. I know that sounds crazy, but I just look at her and I KNOW she was the dog I was supposed to have.  The lady who raised her and trained her said that she had several inquiries this past week for dogs and she didn't mention Zelda to anyone, but for some reason she just felt that we were the right fit for her, and I believe she was absolutely right.  

She's laying with me in the office now, standing guard, my big, scary, ferocious attack dog... 

...actually, she's just a REALLY big, 80 lb baby.

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

23 The Lord is my shepherd.
    I lack nothing.
He lets me rest in grassy meadows;
    he leads me to restful waters;
        he keeps me [a] alive.
He guides me in proper paths
    for the sake of his good name.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
    I fear no danger because you are with me.
Your rod and your staff—
    they protect me.
You set a table for me
    right in front of my enemies.
You bathe my head in oil;
    my cup is so full it spills over!
Yes, goodness and faithful love
    will pursue me all the days of my life,
    and I will live[b] in the Lord’s house
    as long as I live.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Mary, Elizabeth, and the Spirit

It's been forever since I've posted anything.  I do a lot of writing as a preacher... sermon prep takes a good 8-10 hours of my week every single week, but most of what I write never gets posted anywhere, just shared verbally from a pulpit on Sunday mornings.

I've always loved to write.  I love the joy of putting my thoughts down on a piece of paper, all chicken scratch with doodles and random pictures of flowers to help emphasize my points.  In that regard I think I'll always be like I was in third grade, drawing hearts on my notes, although the names are a little more sophisticated than they were in those days.  No longer is it just a doodle with Laura and Nathan  written everywhere, but it's REVEREND Laura and Mr. Laura's husband, because I like to see myself in such high esteem (totally a joke, of course)  Side note: whenever we get mail from Duke Divinity school, they only recognize me as reverend and not Nathan, so our mail says Rev. Laura and Mr. Nathan Wittman. Makes me chuckle every time.

So on we go... dusting off the old blog.  We'll see how long I keep this up this time ... wink wink.

I absolutely love the sanctuary at my church, and this picture doesn't even begin to do it justice, just my view from the pew this morning.  I love my time alone in here during the week.  Sometimes I'll sit and do work in here instead of my office, or I'll pray, or plan worship or play my guitar.  It's my special time with God, I suppose.

This morning I had some prayer time while sitting in here, using my typical "Common Prayer" app, and the highlighted scripture for today was from Luke 1:39-49, the encounter between Mary and Elizabeth, when Mary is going to tell her that she is pregnant.  When Elizabeth encounters Mary the child in her womb (John the Baptist) leaps for joy and it says "Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit".

As we approach Pentecost I find this to be an interesting choice of scripture.  We tend to inappropriately categorize the Holy Spirit as something that showed up after Jesus left, but the Spirit is coeternal with the Father and the Son.  It was the very air breathed into our lungs, the wind that hovered over the waters.  It has been working since before time even began.  And it was at work in Elizabeth that day as she stood in the presence of the Messiah, long before anyone knew what was to happen.

I think being "filled with the Spirit" can mean a lot of things to us. I think it can be that warm feeling we get when we encounter God... when a song speaks to us... when we find hope where hope was lost, the list goes on and on.  I think that the Spirit can be seen in different ways, through spiritual gifts, and some of us express our encounter of the Spirit in different ways too.  

But I think one thing the Spirit teaches us is that you don't have to see something to know it's there.  You don't have to physically lay your eyes on something to know that it's real, to feel it, to experience it.  In the time of Mary and Elizabeth there was no ultrasound equipment, no early results pregnancy tests.  Elizabeth knew what was happening not because she had any physical evidence, but because she encountered the Holy Spirit.

In our day and age it's hard to be people of faith.  I say that not because we face persecution or trial for our faith. We are extremely privileged where we are to have that freedom of worship.  But what I mean is that we live in a society where the answers to everything are right at our fingertips.  I can explain quantum physics to my five year old with a simple google search.  It doesn't mean I understand it, but I can search for it and give him a satisfactory answer when he comes up with questions that are way above my pay grade as a mom.  We can have things delivered to our houses, overnighted from the other side of the country.  Everything is at our finger tips, we can have whatever we want, the moment we want it.  But God... God doesn't work that way.

Being people of faith does not mean having everything we want right when we want it. God is outside of our time and he works in ways we will never understand (I hate when people say that, but it's 100% true).  Our faith is not about believing in what we can prove, but it's about believing in what we have experienced, and in the ways we have encountered God on our own.  It's about trusting that there is something bigger than us.  It's about believing that this man, named Jesus, who loved us enough to give his own life for us was working wonders before he was even born, and he continued to work wonders after his death.

If you think about it, it's amazing that Christianity has lived on as long as it has.  It's amazing that they still let us crazy people, who call ourselves preachers, stand up and talk for twenty minutes on Sunday mornings.  It's amazing that even though I have read the Bible cover to cover more times than I can count, I still find something new every time I read scripture.  God's word is alive and well, and we don't have to be able to make sense of it, but we can see the evidence of the Spirit moving in this world if we just pay attention.

I suppose I should stop here for now, as goodness knows I could go on for days, but I need to save some of this for my sermon on Sunday. If you even made it this far, I appreciate you listening to my ramblings. I'm sure I'll have more to share soon.  

Blessings <><
Pastor Laura

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Grateful, but Heavy Heart

This Wednesday, February 27th, was supposed to be our due date for our sweet little Taylor.  I have found myself feeling kind of like an emotional hurricane the past few days.  I have several friends who have had babies in the past week and it just makes my heart full of delight to see the miracles of life that have come into this world.  But at the same time, I find my heart heavy, knowing that if what could have been had actually happened, we would be very close to holding our new sweet little baby.  It's just so hard to face the reality that we did suffer a loss and that that loss still hurts.

But at the same time, we have this new beautiful little miracle that is growing and getting bigger every single day.  THIS little miracle is almost 13 weeks along and has the strongest, most adorable heartbeat you have ever heard.  I indulged and bought myself a fetal doppler so that I could have some peace of mind.  I find myself sitting alone, listening to my baby, praying, and thanking God for this little symbol of joy that will be gracing our presence in September.  The other day, I even heard hiccups!!  I mean, how stinkin' cute is that??

But as a mother I'm struggling right now.  I look at Cameron and see the most precious little boy in the entire world, who I couldn't imagine ever living my life without.  He brings me joy like nobody else ever could and he has the most contagious laugh you have ever heard.  He's funny, he's silly, he's snuggly and he's the best little buddy I could ever ask for.  My love for him is greater and more amazing than any love I have ever know in this life.  Because of the love that I have for him, I'm already so in love with this baby that I am carrying, because I know the joy that she (or he) is going to bring into our lives as well.  But I struggle because I also had that love for my little Taylor.

When we first had our miscarriage, I said that the biggest thing that would bother me is if everyone forgot what we went through, and forgot about Taylor.  That hasn't happened at all, and I'm thankful for my friends who continue to pray for us and remember us often.  I have been so very blessed in that capacity and I am forever grateful.

I am so thankful to be pregnant, even through the morning sickness (which I still have by the way) and I cannot wait until September to look this sweet baby in the face and fall in love just like I did with Cameron.  But this week is bittersweet.  If you get a chance this week, say a prayer for us.  I thank God for Taylor every single day because I still consider her one of the most precious gifts I have ever received.  Without our loss, as painful as it was and still is, we wouldn't be expecting this new baby.

On March 15 we are scheduled for our next ultrasound and we will get to find out what we are having!!  I am so excited and filled with joy for this new life and I just feel grateful.  My heart is heavy, but it's happy and that is a long, long way from where I was in August of last year.  Thank you all so much for your thoughts, your prayers, your love and your support.  I cannot wait to share more with you as Baby W grows throughout this pregnancy.  Blessings <><

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Hymn of Promise

I haven't written in a very long time, and I've honestly missed writing on here.  Things have been incredibly busy.  Ordination papers are due in less than two weeks.  I have a pastor profile to complete, and a million things going on as the season of Lent approaches.  It is simply a busy season.

After our miscarriage last year, things seemed impossible.  The hope of having another baby was filled with question.  Would we ever get pregnant again, and if we did, would everything be okay?  I was scared and I don't know if I've ever prayed so much in my life as I have since August 8, 2012.  The day that we found out about our miscarriage was the worst day of my life.  But in the midst of it I honestly believed that the loss of our sweet Taylor was not in vain.

I heard so many stories from friends who I didn't even know had miscarriages, who told me that as soon as they had their next pregnancy and held that precious child they knew they wouldn't trade them for anything.  I know that I would never have traded Taylor for anything in the world.  But, I do believe, and I had to believe that some good would come out of it.  That if we hadn't lost that precious baby, we wouldn't have this other baby who means the world to us.

On miscarriage support boards there is this common term, "Rainbow Baby."  It comes from the same understanding of the rainbow that we get from Noah's ark, that after the flood, after the disaster, after the terror, comes a promise that things are going to be okay.  A "Rainbow Baby" is a baby that comes after the miscarriage, the baby that is a sign of promise and hope for parents who have suffered a loss.

This brings me to the best news ever.  Our Rainbow Baby:

On December 21st, I woke up with a "hunch" and took a pregnancy test.  I had been praying so much, and all I could say over and over again was that the only thing I wanted for Christmas was to find out that we were pregnant.

After three ultrasounds we can confirm that baby is growing and the heart rate is increasing and baby looks great.  We are over 9 weeks pregnant and so close to being out of the first trimester.  At our last ultrasound Baby W was wiggling all over the place and had a beautiful 171 bpm just ticking away.

I am already so in love, and so happy and so overwhelmed at this promise.  I think of Taylor Ashley Wittman every single day and what a wonderful blessing she was in this world, even if I was the only one who really knew her.  I also can't help but think now that without Taylor and the pain that we went through, we would never be looking at this beautiful ultrasound of this Rainbow Baby.

One of my favorite hymns is the "Hymn of Promise".  It is a song that reminds us that the biggest blessings are hidden in tiny places and only God knows what is going to happen.  In all of my doubt and fear and crying, God knew that this baby was coming to us, and that this baby was our hidden blessing.

Boy or Girl?  I have no idea, and honestly I would be completely happy either way.  Although, I truly can't wait to find out!  We still have a very long way to go, but I have never felt more sure about anything than I have about the fact that this baby is going to be okay and by September we will be holding this sweet little miracle and wondering how the time passed by so quickly.

Promises are hidden in tiny and unusual places, and sometimes it seems like the waiting is going to kill us, but what we find on the other side is a blessing from God far greater than what we could have imagined for ourselves.  I cannot wait to meet this precious gift, and as our pregnancy continues I can't wait to share more with all of you.

Blessings <><